Who’s In It: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Art Malik, Geraldine Chaplin
The Basics: In gorgeously gloomy 19th century England, Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to his family home on the moors after spending much of his life in America, which “explains” why he talks like 20th century Benicio Del Toro channeling Lon Chaney, Jr. while everyone else comes correct with their Victorian English accents. Talbot’s brother has fallen victim to a mysterious half-man, half-wolf creature feared by the local townsfolk and gypsies, leaving his comely fiancée, Gwen (Emily Blunt), in a state of mourning. But when Talbot himself survives an attack by the werewolf, he begins to experience strange things every full moon… strange, turning-into-a-monster, killin’-people things. Can his father, the daffy Sir John (Anthony Hopkins), help? Is Gwen’s love enough to save him? Will Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) replicate into a million Scotland Yard detectives to stop him? And what’s with all those creepy hallucinatory visions he keeps having involving his dead mother and the kid from The Ring?
What’s The Deal: Screenwriters David Self (The Road to Perdition) and Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en) have taken the simple plot of 1941’s Universal classic The Wolf Man and updated it into an unnecessarily complex hot mess. One problem is that The Wolfman wants to be too many different things at once but can’t successfully juggle them all: psychological thriller, Gothic romance, blood-spurting slasher flick, Oedipal drama, mental institution expose, skeezy rapist-in-the-woods allegory -- you name it, if anyone ever associated with the film’s troubled development ever had an idea to cram in, it’s there. Also problematic are the wildly inconsistent special effects, which range from campy practical prosthetics (think Ron Perlman in 1987’s Beauty and the Beast TV show, only less realistic) to silly looking CGI action scenes. On top of all that, director Joe Johnston awkwardly shoehorns in a tepid romance, stupid twists, and a final showdown so predictable and tame that even the Wolfman from The Monster Squad is like, “Guys? This is lame.” Only for retro horror nerds and members of the Benicio Del Toro fan club.
Why Horror Hounds Might Like It: The Wolfman is packed with references to genre predecessors like Werewolf of London and An American Werewolf in London, and features some of the best-looking production design (and sadly, some of the fakest-looking inserts) to be seen in mainstream horror in recent years. More importantly, it earns its R-rating with blood-squirting gore and squishy violence every time a poor, unwitting villager gets slashed, flayed alive, or gnawed on. Downside: In place of, you know, legitimate tension and suspense, The Wolfman features more cheap jump scares and loud scary noises than every J-horror film ever made put together.
Just How Bad Are The Special Effects? Seeing the Wolfman running along the rooftops of London on all fours (and sometimes twos) is unintentionally laughable, while shots of Benicio Del Toro posing in practical makeup evoke Norma Desmond coming down the stairs in Sunset Boulevard. When another actor (who shall remain nameless) morphs into a werewolf, he looks like he mated with Chewbacca. Furries of the world, take note.